I recently had a Fitness to Practice case regarding a nursing student at an English based University. The student came to me because she was concerned she was not going to get the best advice from the Union, which is fine, her prerogative.
I took on the case for her, prepared the submissions, liaised with the University, made them realise they had to do things right. By that I mean provide actual signed statements of witnesses and make sure they attend the hearing, not just rely upon some unsworn email drafted by some random member of staff…
Unfortunately, the University was vehemently opposed to me attending the hearing (I wonder why..?!?! Although in fairness the regulations did not allow it). The student decided to ask for somebody at the Union advice centre to represent her. The person initially appointed by the Union to take the case accepted himself that he was not qualified or experienced enough to be able to effectively represent the student.
Read more on our Education law Solicitors Blog
For years Universities have been able to hide behind academic judgment, quickly following suit was the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA). However, does the recent ruling in a case by a medical student at the University of Leicester limit the OIA’s scope on this issue?
The medical student’s case was considered unjustified in the first instance by the OIA. The OIA decided against considering the issue of whether the processes and reasoning underpinning the University’s decision to not allow the medical student a repeat year was in fact fair.
The court concluded that the OIA did in fact have the remit to consider potential procedural unfairness and irrationality. It would seem that what now falls within the scope of “academic judgment” has been narrowed. Academic Judgment is to apply to decisions that are purely academic in nature, i.e. grading, attaining progression requirements etc. This is not to be confused with processes and rationale used to come to decisions. The OIA should consider the reasoning behind University decisions “if there is objective evidence of matters which suggest procedural unfairness, bias, impropriety…”
Read more on our Education Law Solicitors Blog
Labour leader, Ed Miliband, has announced that his party would lower fees as of September 2016 if elected, something he said “will benefit those starting courses next year” and “will benefit those already at university”.
Apparently many students would welcome this change in policy and it would potentially help make higher education more accessible to poorer students, so I am told (although £6,000 is no small amount either). It is unclear who really benefits from this lower cap; after all how do well funded universities now feel about this toing and froing regarding funding? Surely, they will only want this to go ahead if state funding is protected and that they can be sure that it would be sustainable funding.
Before £9,000 tuition fees were even introduced much was said about how this would stop people going to University. However the figures have shown that higher education fees did not stop people applying to Higher Education Institutions, in fact the applications continued to roll in and places got snapped up, the result of which was well funded Universities.
Read More on our Education Law Blog
Of late I have seen a spurt of cases regarding self-plagiarism. The normal cases of plagiarism tend to focus around, copying of material, bad referencing or colluding, rarely do you see a case of self –plagiarism and the reason being Universities do not tend to throw the book at such cases. Self-plagiarism is not what most students think about when the issue of plagiarism arises. My experience has taught me that some students do not even understand what it is, or know that it exists.
My most recent case was referred to a formal hearing before the Senate Committee. The Investigating Officer’s investigation involved only looking at some Turnitin reports…that was the extent of the investigation…..
Read the full article on our Education Law Blog
Having the opportunity, not to mention the academic ability, to do a PhD can be a wonderful experience. For many students they spend years submerged in their area of interest developing a real expertise in the field. Most have the opportunity to learn from learned academics that help guide, steer and support their learning in a very proactive way.
But what about the students that come to me after years of frustrated studying only to make no or little progress? What about the students who have supervisors preoccupied with their own academic progression to really invest the time and effort into the student’s learning? What about those navigating the politics that can be a mine field in their Faculty of choice? What about the students who spend years studying only to be told at the eleventh hour that their work is not good enough for a PhD?
Over the years I have been approached by more and more PhD students who have become disappointed with the level of support and backing from either their supervisor, or the Faculty, or in the worst cases both. I do not believe this level of dissatisfaction has increased over the years, I just think students have found a source to air their annoyance through.
It has been really hard to shift the mind-set that speaking up, in a well-articulated manner, will not necessarily jeopardise your positon within the Faculty. I have been astounded by the deliberate and unashamed disregard some Faculties have towards University Regulations. I have seen students who have been offered supervisors who are aboard with no idea of when or if they will be returning, supervisors with no expertise in the students’ area of study, no supervisors for extended periods of study, no feedback, no assistance with ethical clearance or guidance and the list goes on. How is anybody expected to succeed in such an environment? Is it any wonder then that they come to me having failed their Viva…
If it does not feel right, then maybe it just is not right. When you think about the levels of fees involved in this area of study, it is important that you do not let uneasy matters ride along for years, whilst the University rack up the fees.
There are always policies and procedures in place; it is just getting the University to follow them that can be the issue. I cannot stress enough the importance of a student feeling empowered to challenge the University if things just are not as you would expect. I have found over the years that Universities have been amenable to my involvement because it helps create that barrier to get things fixed for the better of all involved. I have also noticed, in most cases, that Universities do actually what you to be successful in your academic progression, they want you to be able to tell others about what a great University they are if nothing else…
What you need to know about Appealing
If can happen to the best of us, anyone can have an off day or two and before you know it, its impacted your whole future. If you need to appeal a university decision this is what you need to know –
1. Know your deadline
Act fast because I can guarantee you your deadline will be short. The deadline for appealing should at the very least be on the letter telling you have failed in the first instance, if not check the regulations. Still cannot find it? Call the Academic Registry and get them to tell you, via email preferably.
2. Get advice
Once you know the deadline the next thing to do is get legal advice. Of course I am going to say go to a lawyer, better still come to me….But the reason I say this, all too often I have seen students do it themselves or go to their Student Advisor and end up missing the relevant points and making a mess of it. You will save yourself a lot of heartache (and money) if you get good solid legal advice from the outset. We know what we are looking for, what is relevant and how to phrase the appeals. What you may think is not significant could be crucially important and often what students think is relevant I have found, through experience, is not that pertinent to their appeal.
3. Read the Regulations
There will be specific grounds that you can appeal on; you need to make sure you fall within those grounds. Cases can be won on procedural irregularities, you will only know if one has occurred if you read and understand (the hard part) the regulations.
4. Collate evidence
From the moment you decide to appeal you need to make sure you start collating all the evidence that needs to be attached to the appeal. Evidence can be Doctor’s notes, death certificates, email correspondence between you and a tutor, statements, think carefully about what evidence that will enhance your appeal.
Your submission needs to very well-articulated, focusing on the strong elements of your case. Be clear, concise and focused.
6. Unsuccessful – what next?
If your appeal fails, that does not mean it is the end of the matter. On some occasions universities have further rights of appeal. Or if you get a completion of procedures letters you can go to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA). Just because the university say it “ain’t gonna happen“, does not mean it’s not going to happen…..probably good to get some legal advice again at this stage. If you were savvy enough to instruct a solicitor already, they will advise you at this stage of what to do next!
Just remember that universities get it wrong just as much as they get it right. Do not assume that just because the university said it, that the university is right.
The Green Deal is a government initiative designed to reduce carbon emissions and save energy. The start date of the initiative was the 28th January 2013. The Green Deal allows property owners to obtain energy improvement measures with no up-front payment. The costs (together with interest) are recouped by the installer over a number of years.
The latest news regarding the initiative is that The Green Deal Finance Company has scrapped the early repayment charges in order to increase the number of people taking up the deal.
The Green Deal was introduced by the Energy Act 2011 and is intended to reduce carbon emissions cost effectively to improve the energy efficiency of British homes.
The Green Deal removes the financial barriers faced by many householders and businesses who want to install energy efficiency measures such as insulation but do not want to incur any costs upfront. A financing mechanism allows private companies, charities and local authorities to cover these upfront costs. The costs are then repaid over time through the savings made on the energy bills and not through conventional loans or finance. The repayments should never be more than the amount saved, so consumers should not see any increase in their bills.
The Green Deal charge remains with the billing at the property, rather than with the individual. So when a property is sold or rented the new owner or tenant will take over responsibility for paying it.
For more information on the Scheme and the Act governing the Scheme you can visit The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) web site at; www.decc.gov.uk
Exam season is upon us, for some they will matter (a lot), for others it will be first year formality. Whatever your situation, exam season is never a fun time. These days it barely feels like one examination period has passed before another one pops up.
The biggest mistake students make is sitting exams and not raising extenuating/mitigating circumstances (in the event they have some) at that time. Often students who have some real and genuine mitigating/extenuating circumstances decide to sit the exams to see how they fair and wait for results. If the results do not come out as they expect they then try and raise mitigating circumstances. The Policy will no doubt have a clause in there that states you have X number of days, after the exam, to raise any mitigating circumstance.
If you feel that something is impacting your performance, then submit the form and do it formallyas soon as you are aware of your impaired ability, whether exams are looming or not.Do not think that just because you told your tutor/professor that it will be taken into account, students often make this mistake. Get help in drafting and understanding the policy, a well-articulated submission can make all the difference. It also shows you are taking your studies seriously.
The Children and Families Act 2014 came into whirlwind force on the 22 April 2014. The ethos behind the changes are to create a more efficient and effective family justice system designed to improve the experiences of children and families who go to court and to facilitate and encourage out of court resolution. Only time will tell if this objective has been achieved.
Key changes are as follows:
- Local Divorce County Courts ( as they were previously called) have been replaced by a National Single Family Court. The aim is to create a single point of entry for divorce cases. Anyone wishing to issue a children or financial order on separation must now issue in a Designated Family Centre. Qualified staff will then signpost the case to the appropriate level of Judge and satellite Hearing centres;
- Mediation is now compulsory making it a requirement to attend a family mediation, information and assessment meeting (MIAM) to find out about and consider mediation before applying for certain types of court order unless an exemption applies. Cases are at risk of being struck out/stayed/delayed if parties fail to comply with requirements or if they incorrectly obtain an exemption.
- Section 8 of the Children Act has been amended to introduce Child Arrangement Order. Courts no longer have the power to make Residence and or Contact Orders avoiding sometimes bitter contests over labels for what are essentially orders confirming where a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact;
- Section 1 of the Children Act 1989 is amended sending a clear signal to separated parents that courts will take account the principle that both should continue to be involved in their children’s lives where that is safe and consistent with the child’s welfare
For further information please consult Gurjit Chahal ( Head of Family Law Team)
Having only just adjusted to the increases under the Civil Proceedings Fees (Amendment No 2) Order 2013 which came into force in July last year, it appears the Ministry of Justice continue to dissuade litigants by a further increase in fees which came into effect on 22nd April 2014 under the Civil Proceedings Fees (Amendment) Order 2014.
The approach being taken is that the recovery for the costs of litigating will be through increased court fees, which are then transferred to the losing party as costs.
The legal industry has already felt the plunge from legal aid cuts under the recent Jackson Reforms which makes it tougher for litigants to acquire the legal advice they should be entitled to receive. The increase in fees only seeks to add to the burden upon litigants who already find it difficult to access their right to justice.
Although only a small number of fees have been revised the focus remains on the surge in costs of issuing legal proceedings. In particular the fee for general applications without notice has only increased by a slight amount from £45 to £50. However, for applications on notice where a hearing is usually required there is an extortionate increase from £80 to £155, which is virtually double the previous fee.
Another key increase concerns the fees for applying for judicial review which has risen from £60 to £135. Further, the costs for permission to proceed have soared from £215 to £680.
The outcome? Wealthy individuals and corporate parties will be able to afford litigating and the less fortunate will have to raise the money or else close the book…
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